Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A New Season

This is the latest update from Ruth Turner who is working at Footprints South Africa, a ministry of Iris Global.

Hello! The seasons are changing again here as we go into Spring in South Africa, and I’m thankful for it. These last couple of months have felt really quite hard if I’m honest, I’ve felt very tired a lot of the time and struggled to keep up my energy levels to meet the needs of all the children. We’ve had a lot less volunteers on base than normal (at times only 6 when often it can easily be 15 or so) and so had little time to rest.  An amazing friend of mine blessed me with financial provision to go to a country hotel for 4 days, it was honestly incredible. I slept most of the time and spent precious time with Jesus. I felt like He gave me a new perspective, and honestly in coming back it feels like I’m breathing again. He helped me to see that all the things I do everyday, whether it is feeding our 50 chickens, 20 rabbits, playing with kids, teaching, reading stories etc, please His heart, and if my aim is to please Him always (2 Corinthians 5 v 9) then I will feel His pleasure in it. I also realised I was putting way too much pressure on myself, we do that so easily don’t we? Once I changed how I viewed my day from a long list of things “to do” to seeing His heart in it and enjoying the life He has blessed me with, I got my joy back. I wanted to be “real” in writing this in the hope that it may encourage you too if you find yourself in a similar struggle. It may be a hard season just now, but after the night comes the morning, just hold on and trust Him in it. 

So Footprints life continues to be full of surprises and fun: Recently our boys found a snake – they pulled it out by the tail (don’t even get me started), put it in a box, and then called everyone to gather round whilst they did a snake show!

One night I found a big spider on my bed, unable to tell if it was a venomous one or not I’m afraid it met its untimely end with my boot and a big bottle of “Doom” (bug spray!)

It's at times like these that I definitely know I’m living in Africa!!

Hospital update:  Two weeks ago my friend Jackie and I were in the Tuberculosis ward praying for the ladies. We had just left and were walking away from the isolation wards when a male nurse came chasing after us. He asked us what organisation we were with, to which I replied “we follow Jesus” and then he said, please come and pray for my patients, they are very sick. We followed him into the Men’s TB ward, and sure enough there were 3 gentleman who were very ill indeed. We spoke life and prayed over them, two of them were unconscious. One man, named Sepo had his blanket pulled over his head, but he was conscious. He was emaciated, had open sores and skin literally peeling off his face. The nurse told us that Sepo used to also pray for people in hospital. We prayed for his healing and that He would know the peace that only Jesus can bring, and he uttered just one word “Hallelujah”. That one word really spoke to me, here was a gentleman, clearly  suffering and yet the word he spoke was to give praise and glory to God, knowing that our bodies may fade away but he is loved by the King of Kings and will be for all eternity. He was dying yes, but he knew the secret, that true life is found in Jesus.

 Keep praying for the TB wards – they are emptying, I know this sounds incredulous, but the last few times we have been there there have been so many empty beds, the nurse’s answer:  “God has healed them”. Yay Jesus!

At Munsieville: My heart for the people of Munsieville (the white squatter camp) continues to grow. I love those people so much and I love how God is transforming their lives and giving them identity. In the last few weeks we’ve been super blessed to have the Harvest school teams (32 people from nations across the world) come from Pemba in Mozambique full of the fire of God and with His heart to help all they can. They stayed for 3 days in Munzieville and poured out God’s love in so many ways. One of my friends there, Nelly, a single Mum, had not had a door on her shack for 2 weeks, which is neither safe nor practical in sheltering her and her child from the cold at night. I was with a team of 3 guys who fixed her door in less than half an hour. Nelly was so happy and relieved. We’ve also been able to give another lady an extra room in her house so her grandson can come to live with her (he is currently in an orphanage). Love really does look like something, and I love seeing the changes in my friends in Munsieville as they begin to realise they are not forgotten, that they have a purpose and a calling in life and that they are very loved.

Fixing the door

Munsieville kids having fun with their cart with the team

Praying for a friend

Thank you so much to everyone who prayed for more volunteers to come and help us here at Footprints... I think we have over 20 people here just now including a family where husband and wife are both GPs. We are very excited about this because they are here to get our mobile medical clinic up and running (a caravan that has been equipped with medical supplies) to take into the local townships to help all those who cannot afford to see a doctor. God’s provision is wonderful and I’m excited to see what this new season holds. 

Thank you so much for your support and your prayers, it means the world. Please let me know how you are and send me your news.
 Please pray:

  • -          For Pastor Yolanda (the children’s Mom) who is currently out in Sierra Leone helping as part of a relief team after the mudslide disaster

  • -          For my friends Mark and Tashi who have been trying to adopt their daughter Hope for four years (she is in my preschool class) , they found out their social worker is corrupt and they have to pay an immense sum of money and restart the process

  • -          For health here at Footprints – for the past two weeks almost every adult and child has been ill at some time with either the flu (the real version) or a tummy bug, and we are still fighting it        (I currently have the flu but I’m on the mend)

  • -          For the mobile medical clinic – that it will be well received and God will lead us to the places where it is needed the most

Monday, 10 July 2017

An Update from Ruth Turner

An Update from Ruth Turner

Ruth Turner has just sent us this update from South Africa:

First of all, I would like to thank everyone massively for their prayers, knowing I have a church family in prayer behind me and that I’m not doing this alone is sometimes what gets me through the day!! It was so interesting when Ruth (Paton) said that you have just had “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 13) as your memory verse as that describes exactly the season I’m in. When I came back to Footprints I wanted a really nice Scripture wall art sticker for my wall. I found the one I liked but I didn’t leave enough time to order it from good old Amazon. The only one that would arrive on time before leaving the UK was Philippians 4 v 13, which, although I love it, was not my first choice. It's funny though how God knows exactly what we need, as it’s been so prophetic for the season I’m in! 

Strength. It’s come to mean so much more to me than it previously had. Does it mean having endless energy to be on the go constantly?  Does it mean emotionally being steadfast? Does it describe our physical state? It may entail all of the above. However, for me personally, it's come to mean having a firm and secure trust in the hand that holds me. He is my strength and my song. Its not about striving, or going at one hundred miles an hour, its knowing that He is my refuge, my fortress, my rock on whom I stand, and because of that, I can do all things.

Why has this been a season of finding strength? I’m going to be real, I absolutely love being here, and doing life with these children whom I'm not sure I could love anymore than I do if they were my own, but I got to the place where I was just exhausted. I live in a house with 7 boys, and take part in the life of 27 on a daily basis. From morning till night there are children clamouring for attention whether its because one has fallen over and needs a plaster, another has chewing gum stuck in her hair (this happened to me a few days ago!) a third wants to sit and read a story and a fourth wants to play a game of cards, a fifth needs his nappy changed and a sixth thinks its an amazing idea to try and rewire the toaster whilst it is still plugged in (do not try this one at home kids!!) Often they all appear at the same time! We have a lot less volunteers here than normal, when I arrived last year there were 17, we currently have 6. I woke up the other morning and I literally prayed, Jesus give me strength!! I listened to a sermon, from Bethel I think it was, and God spoke clearly to me from it. The sermon was about Moses being asked to go and speak to Pharaoh and when he was doubting, God telling him, "But 'I am'”. That’s when I heard God speaking to me, whispering, I have put you here, so you CAN. I felt His gentle, non-condemning prod, making me realise that if I am doubting whether I can do this, then I am doubting Him, because He is the one who has brought me here. Has God always been faithful to me? Yes. Has He always provided for me? Yes. Can I trust Him? Yes. So instead of focusing on my tiredness, I am focusing on Him who has said, you can, because I AM. I hope that may be encouragement to some of you. We can, because of who He is. I have strength because the one who is strong has got me. 

These are a couple of stories Ruth sent to be shared as part of our All Age talk on Sunday 9th July:

We had a missionary stay with us, for about 8 months, who had only partial sight, she was amazing. Whilst she was here her sight deteriorated badly and she had to have an operation to stop her from going blind. For a week after the operation she could not see, she had patches over her eyes. The children were brilliant with her, going to talk to her, getting her her meals, leading her over the house, and obviously praying for her. The operation was to stop her from going completely blind, but it no way was additional recovery of sight expected. The miraculous happened, and not only did she regain her sight (that was not a given) but she received more sight than before the operation, being only one level below being able to legally drive!!!  This lady, my friend, does not yet have complete sight, and she is now not here with us in South Africa, but back in her home country, yet our children still pray for her, and believe that one day she will see completely.  I also told our children about how when I was in Mozambique, a girl who lived in my house prayed for a man they met in the Bush who was completely blind, his eyes were white. She watched as Jesus turned his eyes from white, to gray to brown, and he was able to see perfectly. The man was of a Muslim before he was touched by Jesus, afterwards, he gave his life to the One who helped him see the truth. 

The Powerful Prayers of a 3 year old

This testimony is about a girl, Helen, from Scotland who came to Footprints for a couple of weeks. She is very athletic, but about 15 years ago she had a blood clot in her leg which traveled to her lung and almost killed her. Ever since then she has suffered from clotting and pain in her leg when she exercises. I knew none of this whilst she stayed with us until the last day or two. Our youngest child had just turned 3. Like many 3 year olds  he likes to crawl around and under tables, so I thought nothing of it when I often saw him climb under the dinner table. This lady finished her trip in South Africa and went home, and I met up with her when I was back. It was then that she told me that this little boy had been sitting under the table, massaging her leg in the exact spot where the problem was. After a few times of this happening, she asked him what he was doing, and he replied “praying to Jesus”!! By the time Helen left footprints, the pain was 90-95% gone!!! That little 3 year old had clearly heard Jesus telling him to go and pray for Helen’s leg, and so with the complete trust and faith of a tiny child, that's exactly what he did. I told this testimony to our Footprints family a couple of weeks ago, the same little boy was there as I told it, sitting on another child's lap, sucking his dummy. It struck me, not for the first time, why Jesus said we are to be like little children! They are so powerful, so faith-filled, so able to hear God’s voice!!! 

Prayer Points

As I said, I so value your prayers, so please join me in praying for these things:
  • Protection. I have no doubt that we have massive angels guarding our property but I would very much appreciate prayers for protection for us and the children. The level of crime in this area has increased. Twice this last week I have been lying in my bed when I’ve heard quite a lot of gun fire due to armed robberies in the area.
  • The incidence of child kidnapping in South Africa is massively on the increase. Horrifically children are being kidnapped for their organs, which come at a high price (they are often used in witchcraft). The police, not too far from here have found houses full of children that have been taken purely for this purpose. Please pray that the enemies plans will be thwarted, and for safety and protection for the children of South Africa.
  • We have started a support group in Munsieville, the white squatter camp, it's being going really great but those women really need our prayers. Specifically for health and against fear.
  • That I will feel refreshed and filled up completely in Him! 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

World Horizons - An Update

David Storm writes about an upcoming trip to Egypt:

Long Term Training

I'm thankful for a really good relationship with the Gap Year and Long Term Training leaders and this has resulted in the opportunity to provide more input into the course syllabus. With each Gap Year group in September/October we run several cross-cultural training and preparation classes before taking them on a mission trip, in November 2016 we visited Egypt, in November 2017 we will go to Morocco. 

With each Long Term Training group from November to February we run 6-8 classes on leadership development in a mission trip setting. This provides them with the real life opportunity to plan, run and lead a short term mission trip to a location of their choosing in March. Whilst on the trip they each lead different days and each day we spend an hour discussing and reviewing what has been observed and learnt. It is a great opportunity to develop cross-cultural people focused leaders. This March I go with this group to Egypt.

Pray for Egypt - for Christians to live a life of love and mercy towards their Muslim neighbours and colleagues.

Pray for our group - that they would learn and develop in cross cultural group leadership and be an encouragement to the mission partners that we will visit.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Alpha - My Greatest Adventure

What is Alpha?

Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that freely explore the basics of the Christian faith.

Who's it for?

Alpha is for anyone who's curious. The talks are designed to encourage conversation and explore the basics of the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informal environment. No question is out of bounds and you are free to discuss as much or as little as you wish.

Watch this short video to hear world renowned TV adventurer Bear Grylls share the story of his greatest adventure.

Coming Soon...

We will be holding an Alpha Course in a house in Dunfermline starting Tuesday 1st November 2016. We will meet at 7.15 pm for 7.30 pm start. We'll start each evening with tea/coffee and cake and aim to finish by 9.15 pm. There will be a short talk and a discussion at the end where you can share your thoughts. If you decide at any point that Alpha is not for you, that's not a problem. There's no pressure, no followup and no charge.

For more information, or to sign up, contact us on alpha@linkchurch.org.uk

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sunday 18th September

Our services this morning will take place in two locations:

Masterton Primary School, 9.15 am
Breakfast Church

This will be the focus for our children's programme on Sunday. Everyone is welcome so come along and feel free to bring friends!

Priory Lane, 10.30 am
Coffee and Bible Study

Coffee and cake followed by Bible study starting at 11 am. There will be a video by Graham Cooke followed by sharing and discussion. If you would like to watch the video beforehand and come prepared with some thoughts and insights, you can find it here: : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozd_hhfNVBc

Monday, 16 May 2016

Pray for Schools Fortnight 2016

                                                  Pray for Schools Fortnight 
                                      May 8th - 22nd 2016

Every school a prayed for school! That is the vision of Pray for Schools - to mobilise Christians to support their school communities through prayer. Young people spend the majority of their waking hours in school - far more than in church or at home. We know schools have a huge impact of the attitudes, ideas and thinking of young people, about themselves, the world, and God. Knowing people are praying for you makes such a difference. By praying for your local school, you demonstrate God's heart for your community in a really tangible way. 

The vision of Pray for Schools fortnight is to bring together people from local churches and others involved in education - parents, students,teachers, governors, staff and volunteers - to pray strategically for schools in their area and those involved in them. This year's theme is  Freedom. 2 Corinthians 3: 17 "For the Lord is Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is their is freedom!" 

How Can I Pray?
  • Pray for the school(s) attended by the children and young people in your family
  • Pray for the school(s) the children in your church go to
  • If you know any teachers, pray for them  and the schools they work in
  • Pray for the school closest to where you live, or closest to your church
  • Pray for your own school, or the school(s) you went to when you were younger
Things to Pray for
  • Opportunities for the pupils to hear and respond to the Gospel
  • Biblical values to be honoured and upheld in all areas of school life
  • Practical issues affecting the school
  • Needs of those working within the school and families connected to it
  • Wider education issues
For more information,. go to www.prayforschools.org

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Soul Action South Africa's Update

Fresh Expressions

Last month Phil attended the international conference on Fresh Expressions; a movement that encourages different approaches to Church in a changing culture.

Soul Action – a fresh expression

Much of what Soul Action has facilitated amongst Non Profits since 2007 resonates with what Fresh Expressions defines as missional leadership, i.e. an emphasis on interdependence and community rather than experts or a show[wo]man; collaboration and negotiation rather than hierarchy and authority; multiple approaches rather than one right way; experiential and participative worship rather than set words or instructions; process/journey rather than product/programme; complex and interwoven rather than linear and one-dimensional; ambiguity rather than absolutes; acknowledgement rather than denial; risk and mistakes rather than perfection; trust and faith rather than control; a flourishing life rather than numbers, buildings or money; change and growth rather than the status quo (Nelus Niemandt 2016).

What also struck Phil during the conference was how similar the Fresh Expression’s ‘Process of Discernment’ (below) was to Soul Action’s approach.

“Do ‘it’ again”

Since March last year God has encouraged Soul Action to begin to apply practices that have emerged through listening, serving, building community and exploring discipleship with Non Profit’s, to Christians working at the other end of the spectrum at For-Profits. Just as Soul Action started by listening to NPOs in 2007, Phil & Rachel have spent the last year visiting >150 businesses in the greater Ballito area.

During one such visit in February Soul Action received a tentative offer of a space to meet from a venue located at the very heart of the community. On Sunday a small group had the privilege of meeting and praying into some of the opportunities and challenges of the business in question with its leader.

As Soul Action contemplates innovative ways to serve businesses, build community and explore discipleship within the greater Ballito area, your prayers will be invaluable – firstly, with regards to whether the venue that is on offer is right, and then in finding the right balance between meeting individuals, gathering them together and encouraging a tangible Christian presence that impacts the wider community.

"Start with the Church and the mission will probably get lost. Start with mission and it is likely that the Church will be found." 
Graham Cray, Mission Shaped Church

 Practising Discernment

34 local leaders have committed to connecting more regularly in 2016; gathering with other leaders one month and reflecting one to one with a Soul Action team member the month that follows, and so on…

At February’s gathering Rachel invited leaders to consider their aims for 2016, after which Phil encouraged them to “be ruthless” in ruling out aims which lead away from God, and rather choose what draws them towards what God is calling them to do.

Phil explained how a close friend had recently been helping him explore the practises of St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), specifically an approach to discernment that considers consolation or desolation. Phil asked leaders which direction they felt their life decisions were taking them: towards God or away from God?
Desolation turns us in on ourselves, cuts us off from community, covers up all our landmarks, makes us want to give up on things that used to be important to us, drains our energy drives us spiralling down into ever deeper negative feelings and crowds out distant vision. Consolation directs our focus beyond ourselves, lifts our hearts to see the joys and sorrows of other people, bonds us more closely to our human community, restores balance and refreshes our inner vision, generates new inspiration and ideas, releases new energy in us, shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us (for more on this see Margaret Silf’s book, The Inner Compass, Loyola Press).

Action: Take time this month to reflect on whether your decisions are leading you towards or away from God?
Still Learning

In the province where we work, KwaZulu Natal, the mother tongue of 77.8% of the population is isiZulu. During the first two years of schooling the focus for literacy is on developing the skills to read and write in the mother tongue, thus in many schools children are taught in isiZulu. In Grade 2 English is introduced. By Grade 4 the language of teaching and learning changes from isiZulu to English. Therefore children during the first four years of schooling need to have developed the appropriate language skills in order to cope with the curriculum, make progress and fulfil their God given potential.

The 2006 and 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results highlighted key concerns regarding the quality of literacy teaching in South African primary schools. Professor Nel (2015) stresses, "Teachers are a crucial factor in teaching learners to read…better prepared teachers who are competent to teach reading are essential to achieve the national goals for reading literacy.”

Therefore an isiZulu phonics program was piloted with Grade R and 1 teachers from two schools in 2015. The program consisted of five workshops and support visits. From this pilot we were able to identify the teachers strengths in teaching language skills and areas which needed further support.

Learning points from the pilot program
It was evident that the teachers were able to teach the basic principles associated with phonological awareness, i.e. word, syllable and sound awareness.
The teachers needed further input and support in understanding the benefits of blending at all levels. If children learn to verbally blend syllables in to words, verbally blend sounds in to words they will be able to apply this skill to the blending of written sounds to read simple words at a later stage.

Plans for 2016
So this year we will be continuing to work with the Grade 1 teachers focusing on blending skills. The teachers will receive further training and support on how to assist children to develop word attack skills so they can read unknown words.

If teachers understand the benefits of developing phonological awareness skills and are supported to develop their own skills to facilitate appropriate activities, a learning environment will be created that enables young children to develop the age appropriate skills necessary to read and write. If children are able to develop these skills in their mother tongue during Grade R and Grade 1 this will provide the foundations to build on for the teaching of English in Grades 2 and 3.

Please note: to read a full copy of the report go to http://www.soulaction.co.za/isizulu-phonics-program-report/

References: Health 24 (2015) How to fix SA’s alarmingly low reading rates [online], Available from http://www.health24.com/Parenting/Child/News/How-to-fix-SAs-alarmingly-low-reading-rates-20150624 [Accessed 24.06.15]
Media Club South Africa (2016) South Africa’s languages [online], Available from http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com/landstatic/80-languages [Accessed 27.01.16]


I (Rachel) believe one of the long-term goals of any program we initiate should be sustainability. Ultimately a program should be able to continue even if we’re not involved. LandLearn NSW (2016) define sustainability “as an ability or capacity of something to be maintained or to sustain itself.” It is Soul Action’s desire for people to develop their skills so they can do something for themselves, rather than become dependent on our organisation.

This is the thinking behind our education programs, and why during 2014 and 2015 we worked alongside Grade 2 and 3 teachers to support them in the teaching of English phonics. But how do we ensure the teaching continues and is sustainable? I feel leaders are key to sustainability as they have the power to ensure something continues and to maintain standards. Thus this year I am focussing on working with leaders from the six schools we have worked alongside previously. Through the year we will explore and consider how to support and motivate staff and how to monitor the progress of the children.

In February I facilitated the first workshop with these leaders and the focus was on assessment; what it is, why it is important and this was related to phonics and what should be assessed.

The discussions that came from both their thoughts on assessment and analyzing the research were very interesting, the leaders identified that:

Assessment involves gathering information through different methods
Importance of observation when assessing
Assessment shows the skills and knowledge the children have developed
Assessment provides feedback for the children and teacher
Through assessment teachers can reflect and evaluate children's level of understanding
A key purpose of assessment is to improve learning
Assessment enables hard questions to be asked such as; “Are children learning what they are supposed to be learning?” “Is there a way to teach the subject better?”
Assessment can put pressure on the children
Some of the children are fearful of failure

The leaders tackled some hard questions during our time together. In March I will visit each person to support them in developing a monitoring tool for the assessment of phonics. It will be encouraging to see them putting in to practice what they learnt.

Reference: LandLearn NSW (2016) What is sustainability? [online], Available from www.landlearnnsw.org.au/sustainability/what-is-sustainability [Accessed 16.02.16]